A Mount Vernon elementary school built with a high-tech wood product opened Monday.
Fifth grader Valeria Alvarez is sad she’ll be missing out. She’s graduating from Jefferson Elementary and won’t be able to hit the books in one of the new classrooms on campus.
“It doesn’t feel like a forest, but it feels very different from a normal classroom. You just feel more comfortable. It’s like a home or something,” Alvarez said.
The new school is made of cross-laminated timber. The high-tech wood product is made of layered and pressed two-by-six planks, and though European builders have used it in construction for the last 20 years, the product is new to Washington.
“Wood actually reduces stress levels, reduces the heart rate, and is actually a better psychological and physiological environment for learning,” said architect Joe Mayo of Seattle-based Mahlum Architects.
Construction began in March and took about 12 weeks. The interior features exposed wood and large windows, which architects hoped would stimulate learning.
“It’s beautiful. This is going to make studying algebra so much easier,” Governor Jay Inslee said when he toured the school on Monday.
The new school is part of the state’s $5.5 million K-3 classroom pilot project aimed to build affordable schools, alleviate school overcrowding and replace portable classrooms.
Five schools in Mount Vernon, Sequim, Seattle, and two Eastern Washington cities are a part of the project. Another modular school at Maple Elementary in Seattle is expected to begin construction on May 30.
The Mount Vernon school is the first in Western Washington to be completed. Inslee says it’s not only a new beginning for schools, but is the next step in helping the state’s ailing timber industry.
“You seldom get something that's so positive that can both help our kids study better -- because they do better in good environments -- but we're creating jobs in this cross laminated timber industry, jobs all around our state making this new product and using trees that would otherwise be thrown away. It’s a great thing for Washington,” Inslee said.